Mariana Mazzucato. Dark consensus about screens. Toxic air. Human Terrain. Oral Tradition. — No.55

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Last issue, the most clicked link was: Exploring the Future Beyond Cyberpunk’s Neon and Noir.

Mariana Mazzucato on GDP, Price, & Value

I’ve already mentioned her books a couple of times but it’s definitely a topic worth revisiting with these two interviews (quite a bit of overlap but both are good reads). This conversation is of vital importance for economies in general, for inequality, but especially when attached to climate change. We clearly don’t value nature, our health, and our children’s future enough. As much as I’d like humanity to fix things for moral reasons, if we can reevaluate and realign how we value things, especially in an economic discourse like Mazzucato does, we have a much better chance of fixing things.

Valuing the World, with Mariana Mazzucato

But the really basic problem with GDP is that by not making value judgements, we confuse rents with profits. If we don’t know the difference between value creation and value extraction activities—the kind that are charging prices or earning fees, and hence are included in GDP—we risk passing off anything included in GDP as value creation. […]

First of all, I believe the left has really lost its way in focusing too much on redistribution, and not enough on its own theory of value and of who the wealth creators are. […]

What really matters in both the public and private sectors is internal governance. Precisely because the private sector is respected as a value creator, questions about how to create value, be innovative, and restructure internally so you can take risks long-term are debated more.

Why We Need a New Way to Measure Economic Performance

I have to say that the highlight below gave me cold sweats.

We have an overly financialized business sector that is increasingly using profits not to fund actual activities like production, research and development, training for workers, but just purchasing back their own shares to boost stock prices and stock options, and — surprise, surprise — executive pay. […]

We might not want to comment so explicitly on that, but imagine a financial crisis with the level of fear that has been instilled in people in terms of this lack of solidarity between human beings that we’re seeing. […]

So, value in the economy is absolutely, collectively co-created. Instead, this whole notion of maximizing shareholder value ends up rewarding a very narrow group of people in the economy. […]

The salaries of teachers go into GDP, but the value produced by high-quality public education doesn’t.


A Dark Consensus About Screens & Kids Emerges in Silicon Valley

Walking back technosolutionism in kids’ education and day to day. I found the indiscriminate use of “screen” annoying. Watching tv might not be great but it’s not the same thing at all as playing addictive games on a phone for unchecked lengths of time. Also, saying “phone” when of course it’s the apps on the phone that are addictive.

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K. […]

“We have friends who are screen abolitionists, and we have friends who are screen liberalists,”

The Copyright Office just greenlit a suite of DRM-breaking exemptions to the DMCA

Lots of progress with this new decision (when have you heard that from the US this year?!) but still not going as far as needed. I’d be curious to know how much farmers and their DRMed tractors weighed in this whole review.

It’s an extremely encouraging document! The Copyright Office granted the majority of exemptions, including key exemptions around the right to repair and legal protection for security research. They did partially or completely deny some vital petitions, unfortunately, including ones related to jailbreaking media to make fair uses, and some related to preserving old video games.

The dream of virtual reality is dying

When the “dream” is that of entrepreneurs and media and doesn’t line up with anything a mass of consumers wants. Also, another case of the offering not matching expectations. It will be interesting to see what kind of base Apple can build with their Augmented Reality (AR) efforts and how (if ever) they manage to “flip” that to VR.

Oculus sold off to Facebook and has become little more than a parlor trick Mark Zuckerberg shows off at every F8 event. […]

VR adoption will only happen when the barrier to entry is akin to slipping on a pair of sunglasses (and even then it’s no sure thing). Most people don’t want to wear a bulky headset, even in private, there’s no must have “killer app” for VR, and no one has made a simple plug-and-play option that lets a novice user engage casually.


They don’t care if it’s real

3. The administration, RW elected officials, RW media, even just RW voters — I don’t think they CARE if it’s a “real” threat, as an elitist empiricist like me might define “real.” It is a symbol that defines their identity against their opponents, a weapon in the culture war. (David Roberts on “The Caravan” and on how issues are battlegrounds, independent of their connection to reality or value.)

90% of world’s children are breathing toxic air, WHO study finds

We like to say we care for children but really, outside of our own, do we really consider their health and faith when voting and making political decisions? Very very often, not so much.

The study found that more than 90% of the world’s young people – 1.8 billion children – are breathing toxic air, storing up a public health time bomb for the next generation. […]

Tedros, writing in the Guardian on Saturday, described air pollution as the “new tobacco”, saying the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more. […]

The Enduring Fantasy of the Modernizing Autocrat

Why do Western elites succumb again and again to this fantasy of a youthful reformer and top-down modernizer in the East? […]

Doubtless, quasi-Westernized men and women from the exotic Orient flatter white self-images. These silver-tongued inheritors of wealth and power appear reassuringly familiar — suavely cosmopolitan folks who are au fait with the codes of bourgeois liberalism, unlike coarse nativists like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Human Terrain

Absolutely fascinating visualization of word population represented as vertical bars on a map of the globe. Zoom in to any spot, see population “peaks” and, the bit I found most interesting, show change from 1990 to 2015.


? Oral Tradition – The Oldest True Stories in the World

Amidst the current political headways and disastrous climate news, it’s often easy to loose track of the fact we humans aren’t always asshats. Sometimes we are quite extraordinary. For example, “orally shared knowledge can demonstrably endure more than 7,000 years, quite possibly 10,000.” The article goes over some of the old stories and contemporary proof that the Tjapwurung, an Aboriginal people in what is now southern Australia, have been transmitting stories documenting real events for 7,000 years.

For the next approximately 7,600 years, the Klamath taught each new generation the importance of avoiding Crater Lake lest they disturb the evil god within. With remarkable precision, geologists have determined that this is the time of the terminal eruption of the former volcano, Mount Mazama, and the creation of the landscape that exists today. […]

Some recall the time when the ocean surface was significantly lower than it is today, the shoreline was much farther out to sea, and lands now underwater were freely traversed by Australians.

Via @Bopuc.

Leonardo da Vinci’s eye disorder let him flip between dimensions

If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.


A rare book recommendation in this newsletter, as I said on Twitter:

Great book! I had the chance to read it early on and, like it’s predecessor Bandwidth, it’s the fiction version (with great characters) of every real life topic I share on Sentiers. Just as dystopic as the present, turned to 11 and yet… kind of hopeful.… ?

I really love Peper’s Analog bar/lounge where a lot of both books intersect and gives the series its name. Interestingly, although both have a lot of the same characters, the main protagonist is different.